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Voting chief will use $5 million to upgrade security

September 24, 2018

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Monday she’ll use a $5-million federal grant to strengthen Connecticut’s voting-security system, including a million dollars for backup optical-scanning equipment, as well as election monitors to combat potential hacking incidents at the state and local level on Nov. 6.

“We feel that the best thing we can do with the rest of the funding is to making sure that our local election infrastructure is up to par,” she said. “We believe that the targeting of the municipalities is much more likely than the targeting of the state system itself.”

Monitors will visit the 169 towns and cities to perform training with local registrars, and establish more password protections for the now 20-year-old paper-ballot systems.

While the state was one of 21 targets in the Russian cyber attacks during the 2016 election, its so-called closed-loop system successfully thwarted the attempt. Still, with more than a million probes a day to get into the state computer system - mostly data miners for commercial interests - she wants to shore up the election system.

“The hackers weren’t just trying to break into our system to affect our elections, they’re trying to sow the seeds of doubt,” she said. “They don’t have to corrupt data to do that. They just have to create doubt in the integrity of our elections. Nothing will do more to depress voter turnout despite all our best efforts than sowing doubt in an already- cynical public.”

Earlier this year, when $380 million was released through the federal Help America Vote Act, Merrill convened a bipartisan task force on election cyber-security, including elected officials, academics, and computer experts to determine how the $5 million would be spent.

“In Connecticut our voting machines are never connected to the Internet,” Merrill said in a morning news conference in the State Capitol with U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. “This is not about the way your vote is tabulated. Our tabulating machines cannot be attacked in that way.”

“Our democracy is under siege,” Blumenthal said. “The hackers are hard at work.”

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT

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